Last year, I sent an issue of RHP to contributors for proofing. An author responded that there was a stray sentence in the middle of her bio and she had no idea how it got there. I’m sure she thought I had accidentally pasted it in. (She and I, therefore, have something in common. We both default to blaming me.) I looked at her submission and found she had included this stray sentence in her bio. This made-up bio will get you an idea of how the sentence looked in the context of a bio. I've bolded the stray sentence.
Marie Von Remanence is an artist and organic farmer in rural Arkansas. Recent poems appear in Drainage, West v. East, The Benton Review, and Two Sentence Poems. Is it time for me to go home? She blogs at www.remanence.com.
I probably should have left it alone, but I wrote back to tell her that the sentence “Is it time for me to go home?” had indeed appeared in her original submission. She thanked me and mentioned she had no idea how she inserted that sentence. I corrected the bio.
She emailed me again after a few weeks. She wrote that, a few days after our exchange about the mystery sentence, she had emailed a relative who lives in Sri Lanka to share some family updates. The relative wrote back and asked her to clarify a portion of her email.
Aunt Freida’s dementia continues to progress, as dementia does, I guess. But she is getting lots of family support and care. There is so little left for me here. The moon over these hills sheds its skin, which then falls in giant sheets and hangs across the treetops. Joanie is still at the University of Texas and expects to graduate in June…
She went on to write that she had no memory of including that passage in the email, even though her memory of everything else she had written was clear. She realized, though, for the first time, that the mysterious language—in her submitted bio and her email to her relative—resonated with her. She had lately been feeling unsatisfied with life and realized she had been engaging in reminiscence of her hometown. She first told herself that she could have written them and then, with her copy of her email to consult, that she had.
Concerned about the implications of her lack of remembering—the possibility of neurological or psychological problems—she made an appointment with a psychotherapist.
In their first meeting, the writer and therapist engaged in the usual history-taking and the obligatory litany of clinical questions; and the writer outlined the reason she sought consultation. She noted that the therapist’s demeanor suggested he was trying to reconcile her presenting problem with—something.
Gently and hesitantly, the therapist told the writer that he had been confused by the voice mail message the writer had left him when she called to ask for the appointment.
“You said in the message that you had experienced a couple of incidents that had you wondering about your memory and about some kind of unconscious processes going on that were disturbing to you. I replayed the message a few times and I made a note. In the middle of your message, you paused for a moment and you…well, what I wrote down I heard was
If I return home, the moon will be clothed in rust and will fuse with my heart.
After taking a moment to compose herself, she asked him what he had thought when he heard that.
“I thought you might be psychotic,” he said. “But now that we’ve had a chance to talk…I probably shouldn't say this to you so soon…”
“Please, go ahead.”
“I expect you are going to be fine."
He smiled warmly.
"I mean, as fine as a poet can be.”
Here is your Issue 132, "Rain in Tokyo." Thanks to all who submitted, all the contributors, and to the mighty, mighty editorial team, Laura M. Kaminski, F. John Sharp, José Angel Araguz and F. J. Bergmann. And thanks to you for your patronage.
R. Mac Jones
Children of gods,
we stayed on the dirt too long
and, when called to the sky,
all the stars were gone,
all space for us in connected fire
filled with bulls and bears and heroes.
So I become the dust,
and you the ice.
A comet streaks across the sky.
Benjamin D. Carson
My father’s body rests on the hill,
my mother’s underground,
two long shadows. Late Day.
To the sound of swallows, I rise to go,
as sundogs hang and blaze
linear tombs of light.
Benjamin D. Carson
After whiskey, everything turns.
The breeze through the window
is the very breath of life, and the
moon is the only light there is.
What should be remembered
is forgotten, and what is forgotten
rears its head. It’s not alchemy.
There’s nothing magic about this.
It’s whiskey, which sits in the throat
like smoke and turns the spirit to fire.
Lydia Copeland Gwyn
The Bone Buried in My Body
I lay my kiss on your mouth and we drift, oar-less and slow, down a river lined with ghost farms and blackened branches. Someone has placed a penny and a red rock on the shoals like a spell. We leave it with the washed-up bottles and baby swimming pool, the plastic fabric of which laps with the wake.
In the evening we lie in bed and listen for the calls of white owls, whose faces are moonless phantoms. Something I want to see but am terrified of. Coyotes echo across the valley, their howls thin as silver on the wind. You hold and release my wrist, making your way down, feeling the exact shape of the radius and ulna. You’re making one of your sculptures. I know when you stare at me, you’re looking at angles and curves, the asymmetry of my face.
In the morning I trim my split ends and sprinkle their white, forked tips around the garden. The rabbits and the deer must all know the smell of my head by now.
The Boy Who Dreamed of Many Birds
There was once a boy who dreamed of many birds—birds in the trees, birds on the sidewalk, birds in the mangled nest of a woman's hair.
He dreamed birds being birthed from corners, out of the eyes of the unjust.
In a restaurant, he dreamed of birds hatching from the white enamel of his plate—the long spine of a feather lodged in his throat. Thank God this is no American movie, he thought, I wouldn't want this.
In Response to a Request
for an Artist's Statement
There are too many answers,
too many paved trails
with Sherpa-like guides.
I think confusion is really good.
I believe in confusion.
You can see it; you can feel it.
It’s a starting point.
I kick open the window
and I start screaming, “Fire!”
The air base is surrounded by a sea of sand. Beige hurts his eyes, but the blue above scorches brighter than an after-burner at night. Ray-Bans can’t touch the glare. Sometimes, he imagines flipping the world upside-down, brown to shutter the sun, a blue ocean on which to sail away. How many more days? A far-off perimeter, a line in the sand. Corralled in finite space, living snugly under tab-vees, among sandbags. Sleeping with spiders big as his hand. Burn pit cranking out putrid flakes of chemicals, human remains, shit, piss—anything disposable. His nose tickles all night. Only when dignitaries come to visit is it extinguished.
At night, when his head hits the pillow, enter sandman, 'off to never, never-land.' This night, he dreams he and his friend Jimmy steal bikes and chase the sunset into town, where women in hajabs pretend not to notice, and his bike suddenly turns into a camel. They ride on, but his camel can’t keep up with Jimmy’s bike. “Slow down!” he shouts. “Slow down!” Soon, he catches up to his friend. But then Jimmy starts off, dashing out ahead. Again, his camel can’t keep up, and soon he’s alone on a lonely road in the desert, sand in his eyes, a knot in his throat. In the distance, waves rise and fall and, bobbing on the horizon, a black hull, white sails small as a speck of dust.
Snow falls on Hawaiian foothills.
Thermodynamic pathways are bent, broken.
Swirling over bruised hemispheres.
Carbon, carbon, more carbon.
There is no sequester.
I ride the train to New York.
I am visiting my son.
The train hugs Connecticut coastline.
Tracks parallel a lapping shorefront.
This will not last.
This will not last.
I am sore afraid.
all your lines go out from one place
soft contour of your existence
of two lines diverging
and you not caring—turning around
to go back somewhere,
anywhere, anywhere but home.
for home is where you forget yourself
where you walk on your tiptoes
around the plates you forgot you
smashed to the floor.
i wonder if children cry
as their mothers walk out the door
because they lack assurance
in the returning
or in continued existence
and as for you, thirteen days out
i do not know whether
i doubt your returning
or whether you existed at all
as the messages slowly autodelete
our unspooling beginning
i still long for you
as you slowly unbecome.
DeAndre points his chin at Mama. That your Moms?
He watches her talk with Lamont while we wait our turn, studying her hair and nose, searching for the combination to unlock my story.
Lamont laughs at something Mama says and now both are laughing. Everyone stares at the short white mom and the big black barber.
Yes, I say, like I’ve said my whole life. There’s always someone who’s gonna ask and today it’s DeAndre. I sink lower in my seat. DeAndre. The coolest, toughest kid in the sixth grade. Probably walked here by himself, or took the bus. Me? Driven by my white mom.
Still chuckling, Lamont gets his broom and sweeps away little nests of tight curls fallen from his last customer.
Marcus, you’re next, he calls. Just a fade, please, Lamont, Mama says. No designs this time. That was just for picture day. Lamont nods.
I climb in the chair. DeAndre’s checking out the waves and twists on a poster showing different hairstyles, but I know he’s tracking. Please leave please God make her leave. Come back later, after DeAndre’s gone. But Mama smiles at everyone and plops down next to an old bald guy who just needs a shave. He’s watching ESPN on Lamont’s tiny TV. Who’s playing? she asks. The only white person in the shop and probably the whole block and she wants to talk basketball.
Lamont pumps up the seat. School good? Still playing soccer? The TV blares over the old-school R & B Lamont always plays, but anyone who wants to can listen in.
Lamont puts the cape around my shoulders and rotates the chair 'til I’m staring at myself in the mirror. Round cheeks and an afro that needs a bigger pick. We haven’t been to Lamont’s in almost two months. DeAndre’s hair is always perfect, crisp. Looks like all he needs is a line-up. Maybe he’ll forget he saw me and Mama. I don’t need any more trouble at school.
I close my eyes, imagine I’m in my room, the door is shut, and I’m reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for the fifth time. Mama and the old bald guy talk about March Madness and will the Zags go all the way this year. Her voice slips into the background.
Lamont’s comb gets caught in a nappy tangle. I cry out and my eyes water. Sorry, he says, I forgot. Mama looks up. Marcus is such a tenderhead, she laughs. Ever since he was a baby. She tells everyone about my first haircut, how I cried the whole time and slept for two hours after. Everyone laughs, chopping it up about some tenderheaded uncle or cousin. Soft. The butt of every joke.
Lamont puts down the razor, pulls out a towel from his warmer, and wraps it around my tingling scalp. When he removes it a minute later, I check my reflection in the mirror. Eyes meeting mine, DeAndre smiles behind me. He won’t forget.
A River Styx
runs between us
And you are on
the quick side
And I am waving
from a drinking boat
Tethered to a dock
and you think
I have a boat
but I do not
Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe
Ama de Casa
The year my family moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico crowned the bizcochito the official State cookie. Doula Maria, our new nanny, took it upon herself to show us how to bake the aromatic cinnamon-anise sensation. Doula spoke English in an accent so luxurious, it made you want to roll in it like a dog in fresh-mown grass. She chattered incessantly about Chiapas, telling stories of her childhood home, the cocky-rooster backyard, the chicken-scratched patch. Everyone became an accomplice to her liaison with language: Amor, como se dice, how you say, she would sidle up to us shyly, grabbing at her Tzeltal twins—Chico and Ines— scampering in and out of the open kitchen door, hair like the glossy rumps of corvids seated astride their heads. In the hollowed-pumpkin flicker-haze of that first Halloween night, they weaved their way between the rest of us baking skull-shaped bizcochitos for trick-or-treaters; punching them out in pairs— icing those mocking eye sockets, those grin-and-bear-it teeth— showering them with sugar like a blessing. Espera, hijos! she begged but the dusty diction of Inglés held no hope for the young; they resisted like revolutionaries: Spanish like a seabird darting, thieving, glimmers of foreign fish in their wide-mouthed glee.
Before I woke up yesterday one hour
disappeared irretrievably from
our lives; seventy-five years ago
B-29s dropped Tokyo into
an incinerator; four Sundays back
I fell through my own thin ice into cold,
simple words that clatter between the stacks
of this heart’s peculiar library,
their arms outstretched toward a narrow
canal that reflects wind’s expectant touch,
and cormorants floating on clouds listen
to high school girls from the madrasa in
their uniform black-and-white abayas
banter in adolescent Brooklynese.
Rain in Tokyo
After a day wandering in the park
clouds came and I hurried home,
but the smiling Buddha sat all night
in the chill dark and pouring rain.
photo by Meg McGlamery
Ben Blennerhassett (cover photo) is a photographer from Melbourne, Australia. See more of his work at https://unsplash.com/@benblenner .
Benjamin D. Carson lives with his dog Dora on the South Shore of Massachusetts. His creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in Red Fez, The Ampersand Review, Cactus Heart, The Bitchin' Kitsch, The Somerville Times, Poetry24, Free Inquiry, Oddball Magazine, Poetry Leaves, The Poetry Porch, I am not a silent poet, Not Your Mother’s Breast Milk, Gyroscope, and The Charles River Journal.
Nidhi Zak/Aria Eipe's features appear in T: The New York Times Style Magazine, TED, REORIENT, Dissident Voice, Culture Unplugged; her poetry and fiction are published/forthcoming in Acorn, ARDOR, Banshee, B O D Y & StepAway Magazine.
Robbie Gamble’s poems have appeared in Bottle Rockets, Solstice, RHINO, Carve, and Poet Lore. He works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.
Howie Good is on the pavement, thinking about the government.
Lydia Copeland Gwyn's stories have appeared in Elm Leaves Journal, New World Writing, The Florida Review, Gone Lawn, and others. Her book, Tiny Doors, is now available from Another New Calligraphy. She lives with her family in East Tennessee.
Phebe Jewell's flash appears or is forthcoming in Sky Island Journal, Rue Scribe Magazine, The Airgonaut, MoonPark Review, and Every Day Fiction. A teacher at Seattle Central College, she volunteers for the Freedom Education Project Puget Sound, a nonprofit providing college courses for women in prison.
R. Mac Jones’s recent work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Star*Line, and Mirror Dance.
Richard Jones is taking one more trip to France this spring to finish his book, Paris.
DS Levy's work has been published in Little Fiction, MoonPark Review, Parhelion Literary Magazine, Cotton Xenomorph, Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, South Dakota Review, Brevity, The Pinch, and others. Her collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press.
Meg McGlamery ("Might As Well" photo) is a nonprofit executive and artist on the side located in Birmingham, Alabama. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Remanence is the magnetic induction that remains in a magnetized substance after the the material is no longer under external magnetic influence. Reminiscence is the process or practice of thinking about or telling about a past experience.
Craig Sipe lives on Orr’s Island, Maine. His work has appeared in Maine Arts Review, Goose River Anthology, and in Good Fat Poetry Zine.
Olivia Stowell is a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA pursuing a dual degree in English Literature and Theatre Arts. Her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Albion Review, Madcap Review, The Merrimack Review, Glass Mountain, and others.
Laura Stringfellow writes both verse and prose poetry, holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and is from the very humid Southern US. Recent publications have appeared, or are forthcoming, in various journals including Déraciné, Eunoia Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Nine Muses Poetry.
Gerald Wagoner, born and raised in the Northwest, is a visual artist and a poet living in Brooklyn NY since 1984. As a Visiting Artist at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2018, he wrote a series of poems inspired by the Yard’s history and by the people who labored there.
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